Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Collect - Trinity XII

Latin Collect (this collect is appointed in the Tridentine Missal for 11th after Pentecost)

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui, abundantia pietatis tuae, et merita supplicum excedia et vota: effunde super nos misericordiam tuam; ut dimittas que conscientia metuit, et adjicias quod oratio non praesumit.

1549 Collect
ALMIGHTIE and everlastyng God, which art alwayes more ready to heare then we to praye, and art wont to geve more than eyther we desyre or deserve; Powre downe upon us the aboundance of thy mercy; forgeving us those thynges wherof our conscience is afrayde, and gevyng unto us that that our prayer dare not presume to aske, through Jesus Christe our Lorde.

1662 Collect
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we are to pray, and art wont to give more than either we desire, or deserve; Pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy; forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask, but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

Commentary and Meditation

This prayer reminds us of God's astonishing generosity. It is so abundant that he will not only give us what we ask for in prayer whenever that is best for us, but often what we could have asked for, but didn't. Or he will do things for us that surpass even what we might have imagined for ourselves.

I know this from experience. For some like myself, the initial reaction to a problem is often, unfortunately, not to pray but to allow anger to dominate in the heat of the moment. More than once I have found myself ashamed when, after losing my temper, Divine Providence has arranged a quick solution to the problem that was frustrating me. I have then remembered how small my difficulties are and how gracious God has been to me throughout my circumstances in life. Also, some of the greatest blessings in my life, especially my present ministry and teaching position, have far surpassed what I had originally prayed for.

As for a specific example of God answering the prayer that should have been spoken but wasn't, I will give one example from my life that some might find amusing. (Amazing how some events are funny only some time after their occurence, isn't it?)

One Holy Saturday I was working away at preparing the church for Easter Day, helping with the polishing of brass. I was polishing the thurible. Now, polishing the chain-links on a thurible definitely comes into the category of "no fun", in my opinion. (Everything's nooks and crannies!) But when you manage to get the three chains hopelessly tangled it becomes much worse. You might think, "Three chains, firmly connected at both ends, how can you get that tangled by polishing and, even if you did, how hard could it be to untangle?" All I can suggest is that you keep those thoughts to yourself around thurible-polishers.

Anyway, I had the thing tangled. And my attempts to untangle it were remarkably unsuccessful. Indeed, they appeared to be making things worse, contributing to a rising tide of panic and, eventually, rage. Did I mention my bishop was there doing other jobs to prepare for the next day? No? Well, he was, and at some point I asked him for help. His response was along the lines of, "Oh no, I've done the same thing myself and I know what it's like -- so the rule is, he who tangles it untangles it." He said it with a smile. I wasn't smiling.

It got to the point where I was internally swearing like a trooper and pretty much going nuts. I was genuinely giving serious consideration to hurling that thing out the nearest window. With the window still closed. No, I'm not kidding. And, yes, I realise it was rather pathetic and silly. (Strangely, it has generally been inanimate objects that have brought out my worst temper. Especially computers -- but that's another story.) Given that I was still training for the priesthood and, well, you remember the bishop was there, the aforementioned action probably would have had some impact on my vocation. :-)

Just before I was about to completely lose it, I decided to stand up from the table I was sitting at, and turn away from the cause of my temporary insanity. Nobody was nearby to see me take some breaths and try to calm myself down, as the bishop was in another part of the building.

Then I turned back and felt I could try one more time. So I picked it up from exactly where I had left it and ... it was untangled. There was nothing wrong with it. I stared at it in shock. Then came the quiet prayers of mingled thanksgiving and penitence. I knew I didn't deserve this after all the cursing and wrath -- and lack of prayer for help. I felt like God must have been gazing down at me with a patient but parental "Have you quite finished?" look.

Was this some kind of miracle? Did an angel sort things out while I wasn't looking? I have no idea. But I do know God taught me something that night: He loves me even when I am being an idiot, but He'd prefer it if I didn't succumb to ungrateful foolishness as often as I do.

It's experiences like these that help me to understand both this Collect and that powerful verse in Psalm 130.4, "But there is forgiveness with thee; therefore shalt thou be feared".

1 comment:

poetreader said...

Thank you, Father. This is a little gem.

I can't count the number of times in my 66 years that I've heard (more or less)the Lord saying, "If your are quite done with your tantrum, we can talk now." Doesn't that make me feel small!

God is good -- so good I have trouble accepting it.